Anti-Lynas groups seek to meet Dr M over rare earths operations

Activist Tan Bun Teet (centre) with Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann (left) and fellow activist Heng KC at the press conference.

KUALA LUMPUR: An anti-Lynas coalition of NGOs and residents’ groups wants to meet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to raise their objections against any government decision to renew Lynas Corporation’s licence.

The coalition, headed by activist Tan Bun Teet, said they wanted to meet Mahathir to offer their views on why they are against the rare earths processing plant continuing its operations at Gebeng, Kuantan.

“We wrote to his office in June, but there was no response.

“We are not against Lynas but we are against the way Lynas manages its waste,” he said during a joint press conference here.

He said it was unfair for Mahathir to hear only Lynas’ side of the story on whether to let the company operate in Malaysia.

Previously, during a visit to Japan, Mahathir had said that the government will allow Lynas to keep operating its plant in Gebeng as Malaysia did not want to lose such a large investment and in view of the world demand for rare earths.

Mahathir’s comments removed the uncertainty that had been hanging over the future of the US$800 million (RM3.36 billion) plant after the process for renewing its licence was halted over waste disposal concerns.

Lynas is the only significant producer outside China of rare earths, the name for a group of 17 metals used in batteries, computers, televisions and smartphones.

Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze had said the government’s feedback on plans to move initial ore processes out of the country had been favourable.

Tan said the groups had been fighting against Lynas’ operations here for the last eight years and constantly trying to make the government realise the dangers and side effects of Lynas’ operations.

“We believe the truth never reaches the government.”

Tan hoped Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin will stand firm on her decision on Lynas’ operations.

“She has said that Lynas needs to ship out its waste as a pre-condition for the renewal of the licence.

“She and other Cabinet members need to take into consideration the lives of future Malaysians before making decisions on Lynas’ operations,” he said, adding that if the government failed to do so, voters, including the residents next to the plant, will vote Pakatan Harapan out.

The Western Australia state government was reported as stating that it will not accept the return of Lynas’ low-level radioactive waste into its territory.

The state’s Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said Yeo would be wasting her time visiting Perth to discuss the issue.